Sooo… the Passage Of Time came and hit me upside the head this past week.
A lifetime ago – 1971 to be exact – I was a naïve child tossed from an unhappy boarding school existence to independence in the city, and maturity: University!
I had just turned 17 and I was pretty cool and knew I could handle anything this big old world could throw at me. At least, that’s the disguise I was wearing as I found my way around campus and took refuge in “Rez” where some friends from “the boys school” were residing.
I don’t for the life of me remember how or why, although I think it was English 100, I was befriended by a tiny redhead with platform shoes who had enough opinion for the both of us. She, too, was in Rez so I didn’t always feel the tart just hanging in the men’s Rez. Her name was Kathryn.
We became good friends and some of my biggest memories include her.
Consoling her over unrequited love – I didn’t understand her choice, but I understood unrequited love.
Learning that Teach would lend us his ID and that no one noticed neither one of us was a 6’4″ blonde man.
Primping and preening for dances when platform shoes and miniskirts were the only acceptable attire. Until That Dance.
Kathryn was so pissed off about the lump on her neck that she couldn’t disguise no matter what jewelry we threw at it. Fast forward now through a myriad of doctors, hospitalization, and my friend was fighting what might be the fight of her life with Hodgkins Lymphoma. Like, WTF was that about? In my protected life, young people didn’t get so sick that you thought about the meaning of life.
Well, we survived that. Ok, that’s arrogant. Kathryn came through with flying colours and that part of my life is still a blur. The one upside of that story is that I chose her lovely doctor to be my doctor and he saw me through every other important event in my life!
We made it through university and then she got me a job at the hotel where she worked.
She pursued her French with trips to France and living in Quebec. I had my heart broken and moved to Toronto. Bingo! Close enough! We visited back and forth and I still love Quebec City although I haven’t been back since.
I got a job in London, Ontario and she had her sister host us while I looked for an apartment.
Somewhere along the way, I moved back west to get married. She came back too at some point and did the same. We reconnected.
But things weren’t the same. I mean, on the surface all was good – we had too much history for it not to be. But the men in our lives changed us as well as our lives. I had three babies in rapid succession and she had one. We wifed differently and we parented differently. Then her marriage ended. It became work to keep in touch.
Today, it’s almost 30 years later and I find myself living in her home town. Not sure if she was still here I Googled her. I didn’t find anything so I clicked Google Images. And there she was! There was absolutely no mistaking that amazing head of red hair and those huge beautiful eyes! Crap, I’ll be honest, the picture was so gorgeous I thought she’d become a model! I clicked the picture, clicked “Visit the website” and stopped, stunned.
It was an obit…well, a memorial, written by a man who had obviously loved her well. She died three and a half years ago.
I read it a dozen times, taking in all the things I didn’t know about her. Scotch? She apparently knew her Scotch. Not in our time together! I’d remember that fact because Scotch is one of the most undrinkable drinks I’ve ever had! She wrote books for her students: she was always passionate about her French and teaching the language but she obviously took more action than the average teacher. She apparently went back to Uni for a Master’s degree. I knew about her photography.
I need to share the memories that are bringing tears to my eyes as I write this:
- Being so scared of losing a friend I didn’t know how I deserved, and realizing I knew piss-all about death.
- Freaking out over the fact that, on a Sunday-evening shift at that hotel, my friend was held up at gunpoint and she apparently (all 5’2″ of her) laughed at this idiot and asked him if she was supposed to be afraid of his finger pointing at her in his pocket.
- Amazing at her bravery to just up and go to the French-speaking location of her choice.
- Driving around Toronto after John Lennon had been shot, feeling so alone because I had just put Kathryn on a bus back to Quebec and had no one to talk to about the tragedy.
- Going to London in the coldest January ever, staying in a house that didn’t believe in heat, and layering on so many layers of jammies before bed that we rolled in hysterics.
- Driving back from London in near white-out conditions: totally not our westcoast reality!
- Loving the beautiful French lace tablecloth she gave us a wedding present, as she apologized for it being synthetic because real linen was too heavy to carry through France in her backpack.
- Sitting in her house watching her very tiny son banter in perfect English and French depending on which parent he was talking to. I’ve suggested her method to many bi-lingual parents.
The more I talk about Kathryn here, the more I am remembering the little things: the glint in her eye, the way she cocked her head when she was waiting for you to see her logic, the ease and humour with which she seemed to navigate life.
And… there’s an interesting postscript to my writing.
At the risk of sounding like a stalker, I Googled her partner, the man who had written her memorial. I was not in the mood to check each website that matched the name so I went straight to Google Images in case there might a pic of them together. I didn’t need it.
I knew him immediately. I clicked on the picture of the man I was confident was him and clicked on “Visit the website”. It was relatively local so I wondered… and then my mouse came to rest on the photo and a photo credit came up with my friend’s name. I read a few articles and he seems like a really good man.
It’s still a little surreal to have the passage of time hit you upside the head. Despite our age, for some reason, being gone was the last outcome I expected. I decided I needed to write my own small tribute to my old friend. I’m not surprised she knew successes in her life, and I’m happy to know she knew great love in her last years.
Rest In Peace, Kathryn! Thank you for so many good memories!
As for the rest of you, if you’re thinking about getting back in touch with someone from the past, do it! Worst scenario: they don’t answer and nothing changes.
And maybe they will answer.